Local Veterans Sue Major Iraq War Contractor; KBR’s ‘Burn Pits’ Spewed Toxic Waste
Corpses burned, around-the-clock.
Body parts and medical waste burned, too, in the pits operated by war contractor KBR just a few hundred yards from camps of American troops stationed in Iraq.
Flames rose hundreds of feet high from the pits incinerating spent munitions, pesticides, tires, solvents, plastics, batteries, mattresses, vehicles – all without proper safety controls, according to a federal lawsuit filed Friday against KBR and related companies by three Casper Iraq veterans and two of their wives.
“KBR’s ‘burn pits’ openly exposed Exposure Plaintiffs to horrific, life-altering and health damaging toxins,” according to the complaint filed by five Casper plaintiffs – Terrance Sordahl, Keith and Laura Jones, and James and Julia Savino – through their attorney Jason Ochs.
“By exposing the Exposure Plaintiffs and others to the highly toxic smoke, ash, and fumes coming from the burn pits, KBR has caused Exposure Pliantiffs to suffer serious adverse health effects, including but not limited to: bronchial infections, upper respiratory infections, shortness of breath, wheezing, inability to exercise for extended periods of time, gag reflex issues, throat issues, and a host of other ailments, as well as increased risk of serious diseases and death in the future," according to the complaint.
KBR -- a subsidiary of Halliburton -- and related companies received billions of dollars' worth of no-bid contracts from the United states for work in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 until now. The contracts required KBR to clean the waste properly, move the burn pits to where they wouldn't affect soldiers, and follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, Ochs said in an interview.
But KBR didn't comply, he said. "They threw all these items, classic items that you do not burn because of known toxic chemicals that can cause all sorts of problems."
"These are young men, who have had permanent respiratory changes in their lungs, and will have permanent change in their lifestyle as a result," Ochs said.
The Veteran Affairs Medical Centers have established a "burn pit registry" for soldiers who have been exposed to the toxic emissions. The plaintiffs are listed in this registry, according to the complaint.
"They're being taken care of through taxpayer dollars via the VA (Veterans Administration) right now," Ochs said.
"We don't believe that's appropriate," he said. "We believe KBR should be paying for the medical costs not only presently, but for the rest of their lives that have anything to do with any sort of respiratory impairment they've suffered. And let's hope that it doesn't develop into something worse such as cancer of some sort."
This and similar cases probably will be transferred to a federal court in Maryland for the discovery phase during which records and contracts from KBR will be gathered, then motions when KBR will try to have the cases dismissed, Ochs said.
If the plaintiffs prevail in this phase, the Maryland court will send the cases back to Wyoming, Ochs said. "And we will be able to try these cases in front of a Wyoming jury."